McCarthy wants FBI to track shootings separately
BY FRANK MAIN Sun-Times Media February 23, 2013 8:07PM
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy
Updated: March 25, 2013 6:49AM
Chicago police Supt. Garry McCarthy is calling for cities across the country to count their shootings and for the FBI to include the totals in its annual Uniform Crime Report.
Chicago began keeping track of shootings as a specific crime category after McCarthy took office in 2011, following the lead of New York and Los Angeles. But shootings are not a category in the Uniform Crime Report, a major resource in studying crime across the country.
McCarthy said shootings are a more accurate barometer of violent crime than murders, and that there’s a “national movement to fix this to better reflect what’s happening in the crime world.”
His decision to count shootings as a crime category is part of a larger effort to revamp the way the Chicago Police Department tracks crime. In the past, for example, its crime summary didn’t include murders that happened in the city but on property under another agency’s jurisdiction, such as expressways patrolled by Illinois State Police.
Now every murder in the city’s boundaries is part of the total, McCarthy said.
“This is about transparency, this is about reality,” he said. “I don’t think John Q. Citizen really cares (if the state police have jurisdiction over a killing.) That’s a murder in the city of Chicago.”
McCarthy pointed to Chicago’s 2013 murder tally of 56 through Thursday, two fewer than over the same period last year. Three of those 56 killings were in the city but not within the Chicago Police Department’s jurisdiction, he said.
“So we’re really down five murders, but our statistics show we’re only down two,” he said.
McCarthy said he’s also considering changing the way other crimes are categorized. Cellphone snatching, for instance, is counted as theft, but depending on the force that’s used to steal a phone, the city might start counting some of them as robberies, he said.
As for the new category of “shooting incidents” — defined as situations in which at least one person is hit with a bullet, including a murder — Chicago police counted 221 through Thursday, compared to 220 over the same period last year.
Before McCarthy took office, the department tracked shootings through a different crime category, aggravated battery with a firearm. But shootings that occurred during the commission of another crime, such as a robbery or murder, were not included in the totals for aggravated battery with a firearm, McCarthy said.
“We didn’t have an accurate way to count shootings,” he said.
A national group of police executives is studying changes to the Uniform Crime Report, including whether cities should report shootings to the FBI as a separate crime category.
The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics established the group. One of its co-chairmen is former Chicago police Supt. Charles Ramsey, now Philadelphia’s police commissioner and president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association.
“There will certainly be conversations about shootings, as that may be more reflective of the overall violence than assaults and homicides,” Darrel Stephens, executive director of the association, said, adding that changes to the national report are “very slow in coming.”